Cheryl Sexton, TCF Project Manager, Delivery
"There are three things that I like the most about working for the Combined Authority: the people, the programme and the benefits."
Can you tell me about your career background, progression and how you feel that has prepared you for the job you currently do?
In 2014, I graduated from Warwick University with a law degree and started my LPC training to become a solicitor. Rather late in the game, I decided that I was no longer going to pursue a career in law, with the birth of my daughter in 2016.
When I went back to work after maternity leave, I started work with HMRC as a Case Officer and quickly worked my way through their Tax Professional training. After a year of working in the Civil Service, I decided to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream. After a successful application, I started in the Project Delivery Stream.
My first placement was at DWP as a Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager for a disability provision that was going live in December 2019. This was an exciting post, which gave me a good oversight of all areas of project management (design, IT, business case writing, commercial and, of course, stakeholder management and communications) whilst having the responsibility for ensuring that Ministers were kept informed, lines to take were updated regularly and messages into the public domain were well received.
My second placement has been with the Combined Authority as a Project Manager for the Transforming Cities Fund Programme. Having never held a Project Manager position before, I was nervous about my inexperience and the level of responsibility this role would bring. However, I need not have worried. The team at the Combined Authority are exceptional, being both very welcoming and knowledgeable. My prior stakeholder engagement experience has been very useful as Project Manager for one of the Combined Authority’s largest programmes. I have been able to bring lessons learnt from my previous placement and incorporate new ideas into the programme, which have been well received and encouraged by senior management within the Combined Authority.
What does your job involve and what do you enjoy about it?
When I first started my secondment at the Combined Authority, my first task was to get to grips with the schemes within the programme, map out my internal stakeholders and work with our Policy colleagues on the submission of our SOBC to DfT in November where my main responsibility was to pull together Programme-level and Project-level risks to provide a comprehensive risk register for the DfT. Work was very fast paced with short deadlines.
However, what I have really enjoyed is being able to lead on the restructure of the Delivery Directorate within the Combined Authority and our recruitment of a new TCF team. Working with colleagues right across the Combined Authority, I have been given the support and trust to deliver an Organisational Design business case as well as a comprehensive recruitment strategy for this recruitment campaign. Every day new challenges arise, which makes the job interesting, but I have the backing and expertise of my managers that gives me the confidence to rise to those challenges.
How do you find working alongside your team and the wider directorate?
The best part of my secondment has been working with my team. I’ve not come across a single colleague who has been too busy to answer a question (and I had many of them when I first started) or not have time to help with feedback on pieces of work. My line manager is fantastic, taking time out of her busy schedule to have a coffee and ensure that I am happy with everything.
To me, the Delivery Directorate feels communal and open. I regularly speak to colleagues, from all levels and grades, right across the Combined Authority. With my colleagues being so approachable, it has allowed me to get to grips with the inner workings of the Combined Authority, our relationship with District Partners, the assurance process as well as enhance my own project delivery skills.
There are three things that I like the most about working for the Combined Authority: the people, the programme and the benefits.TCF Project Manager
What training / learning opportunities have you taken part in whilst at the Combined Authority?
During my secondment at the Combined Authority I have taken part in various Learning Lunches and Getting-to-Know-You sessions, which have been particularly useful in familiarising myself with areas of the Combined Authority and meeting new colleagues.
What do you like most about working for the Combined Authority?
There are three things that I like the most about working for the Combined Authority: the people, the programme and the benefits.
As I have mentioned, the people are fantastic, and I love the communal feel within not just the Delivery Team but the wider organisation.
I also feel like now is the best time to join the Combined Authority because of the work that you will be involved in. The Transforming Cities Fund has been an exciting, fast-paced programme to work on. However, there is so much more to the Combined Authority than its very large transport portfolio, and with devolution for West Yorkshire recently being announced I’m sure there will be more exciting opportunities to come for colleagues.
Imagine you could go back in time to when you first started in your current role – what tips/advice would you give yourself?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you first start. Everyone appreciates that you are new, and it will take you time to get to grips with such a large programme. Just talk to your team and ask as many questions as you need to, as they are always happy to help.